Photo: Solid southern food.

Introduction

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Set to a historical backdrop of Buddhist kings and bustling trade, modern Nakhon Si Thammarat is a fast-paced cultural and commercial centre. The eponymous province boasts miles of coastal beaches to go with several waterfalls flowing amid a formidable mountain range. If you’re after a taste of unadulterated South Thailand and you don’t mind sliding off the tourist trail, give Nakhon Si Thammarat a shot.


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Based at the site of modern Nakhon Si Thammarat town (“Nakhon” among friends), the Tambralinga Kingdom maintained close ties to the Srivijaya Empire while also paying tribute to Chinese dynasties between the sixth and 14th centuries. The boomtown capital was situated at one end of a land route that linked the Andaman Sea to what’s now the Gulf of Thailand. At its zenith around the 13th century, Nakhon Si Thammarat (same kingdom, new name) was an independent kingdom that may have controlled most of the Malay Peninsula. Foreigners knew the kingdom as Ligor, a name that can still be seen in Nakhon today.

The slow pleasures. Photo taken in or around Nakhon Si Thammarat, Thailand by David Luekens.

The slow pleasures. Photo: David Luekens

In addition to trade, Tambralinga was an important crossroads for religions. Hinduism and Mahayana Buddhism arrived by way of the Srivajaya, which is thought to have maintained a measure of control, if not outright rule, over Tambralinga throughout much of its existence. In the 12th century, a Tambralingan king temporarily ruled over part of northern Sri Lanka, helping to facilitate the spread of Theravada Buddhism to Thailand.

Around the same time, Sri Lanka-ordained Theravada monks renamed the city Nagara Sri Dhammaraja, a Pali term meaning “City of the Sacred Dharma King.” This evolved into “Nakhon Si Thammarat” when increasing numbers of Thai tongues arrived from Ayutthaya in the late 14th century. Nakhon Si Thammarat retained a measure of autonomy for a while longer: It wasn’t until King Taksin marched south in the 1770s that the city became part of Siam/Thailand ... Travelfish members only (Around 1,200 more words) ... please log in to read the rest of this story.


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What next?

 Browse our independent reviews of places to stay in and around Nakhon Si Thammarat.
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